I would like to talk about kizuna from a Buddhist perspective, especially the Shin Buddhist view. Kizuna in English is tie, bond, or, knot. It can be seen in the notion of family, friends, and so on. In Buddhist world, we, all sentient beings, are related each other through the theory of interdependence and interconnectedness. We exist at the same time and share the same material on the earth. It is like we are coming into a big umbrella. Let’s look at one of Kaneko Misuzu’s poem to deepen our understanding of what this term means:
One Bee, One God
Bee’s inside the flower,
Flower’s inside the garden,
Garden’s inside the fence,
Fence’s in town,
Town’s in Japan,
Japan’s in the world,
World’s in God.
And…and, God’s inside
A little bitty bee.
D.P. Dutcher, 金子みすゞ童謡集Something Nice
In this poem, God is taken to mean a transcendental being like the Buddha. This does not mean God as in Christianity. Let’s read this poem again while replacing God into Buddha. This poem expresses Kaneko Misuzu’s religious world and, at the same time, explains that we are not living independently. We are embraced by Buddha’s teaching, and it works in us.
So, what does kizuna mean in Buddhism? I think it means the Dharma (Buddha’s teaching). Relationships made through the Dharma are called Dharma friends (hōyū, 法友). Shinran Shōnin (親鸞聖人), the founder of Shin Buddhism (Jodo Shinshu, 浄土真宗), expresses it as ondōbō ondōgyō, 御同朋御同行, literally translated “Companions and fellow practicers.”
There are two kinds of meaning of dōbō: 同胞 and 同朋. The former means the blood relation and was used to raise the nationalistic consciousness of Japanese before. The latter means friend relationships transcending blood relation and the opening of true human relationship. Shinran shonin’s meaning of dōbō would be the latter. Therefore I myself translate it as “relationship of those who are equally illuminated by Amida’s light and working.”
In Shin Buddhism’s world, we are all touched by Amida’s working whether we realize it or not. Everybody should respect each other, and then naturally a wonderful relationship would be produced. This is dōbō. Let’s take a look at this relationship in more detail. Usually it easy for us to understand this type of relationship in our mind, but it is very difficult to understand it in our lives. Although everybody is respected, some people commit a cruel crime: insulting, stealing, murdering, and so on. Their action makes our realization of dōbō relationship clouded and complicated. However they still have potentiality to do self-reflection and transform themselves as long as they live because they are also illuminated by Amida’s working. What we can do is to be patient with them and to believe in their possible transformation as they are the same human as we are in dōbō. This was an extreme example. But I think that “to be patient” and “to believe” are very important in our lives.
Shinran Shonin expresses this in his hymn:
When a person realizes the mind of nondiscrimination,
That attainment is the “state of regarding each being as one’s only child.”
This is none other than Buddha-nature;
We will awaken to it on reaching the land of peace.
(CWS, p. 350)
（浄土和讃 諸経讃 第九十二）
That is, when we realize the mind of equality, we attain the “state of regarding each being as one’s only child.” The state of regarding each being as one’s only child means to consider others as an extension of ourselves. In other words, to be gentle to others as we are gentle to ourselves. Shinran Shonin says that this state is very important through the expression of “this is none other than Buddha-nature.” This idea of Shinran Shonin reminds me of the poem I introduced to you all last month.
When I’m feeling
When I’m feeling
My friends all
When I’m feeling
Mama spoils me.
When I’m feeling
Smiling together and enjoying life together are very important, but I believe that feeling sad together is also a most important attitude in a dōbō relationship. I think “sympathy” is the core of kizuna. That is, to bring the realization, “Your joy and sadness are my joy and sadness. My joy and sadness are your joy and sadness,” into our lives produces strong kizuna between you and others.
In conclusion, I’ll conclude this from a non-Buddhist perspective. For me, whether you care or not, you all are my friends, and people who are not here and I do not know are also friends because they all are sharing this time and this reality. Everybody has many their own sufferings and living hard by burdening them as I have. When I reflect this, although it is a very short time, I feel that everybody is respectable. They are living hard in various places and facing their own suffering. I utter “Hang in there!!” “がんばれ” to them and me spontaneously. Don’t you think this is also kizuna? I believe that you also have experienced this feeling. I hope we can keep this feeling as long as possible. This will turn your life toward a positive way.
浄土真宗本願寺派 大見山 超勝寺 衆徒。翻訳家。ハーバード大学 神学部研究員を修了し、帰国。現在は、執筆活動や通訳・翻訳を通して、日本仏教を世界に弘める活動をしています。